Invasive Plant Crisis Threaten Sagebrush Habitat Across the West
Potential Partnership with Common Ground Capital is Part of Discussion
Aerial surveys will begin March 15 and run through mid-May in five states containing lesser prairie-chicken habitat. The surveys are conducted annually by the Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies (WAFWA) to document population trends and how the bird is responding to management strategies identified in the Lesser Prairie-Chicken Range-wide Conservation Plan.
The range-wide plan is a collaborative effort of WAFWA and the state wildlife agencies of Texas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Kansas and Colorado. It was developed to ensure conservation of the lesser prairie-chicken with voluntary cooperation of landowners and industry. The plan allows agriculture producers and industry to continue operations while reducing impacts to the bird and its grassland habitat.
“This survey provides the data for annual estimates of the lesser prairie-chicken population across the five states,” explained Roger Wolfe, WAFWA’s Lesser Prairie-chicken Program Manager. “These population estimates are critical in helping us guide decisions related to conservation efforts targeting lesser prairie-chickens and their habitat.”
The surveys will be conducted by helicopter in locations chosen randomly within lesser prairie-chicken range, which is part of the methodology strategy. In previous years, some of the fly paths prompted calls, which is why WAFWA is providing notification about the start of aerial survey work.
Preliminary results from this year’s surveys will be available on July 1.
WAFWA news releases available at http://www.wafwa.org/news/
Lesser Prairie-Chicken Range-wide Conservation Plan can be found HERE
Since 1922, the Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies (WAFWA) has advanced conservation in western North America. Representing 24 western states and Canadian provinces, WAFWA’s reach encompasses more than 40 percent of North America, including two-thirds of the United States. Drawing on the knowledge of scientists across the West, WAFWA is recognized as the expert source for information and analysis about western wildlife. WAFWA supports sound resource management and building partnerships at all levels to conserve wildlife for the use and benefit of all citizens, now and in the future.
The Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies (WAFWA) has adopted a conservation plan for monarch butterflies that range across seven western states. The plan was adopted on Jan. 5 at WAFWA’s mid-winter meeting, held this year in Tucson, Arizona. The newly adopted Western Monarch Butterfly Conservation Plan establishes population size and habitat conservation goals, strategies, and actions for the monarch butterflies that overwinter along the California coast and range primarily across California, Arizona, Nevada, Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Utah.
Along with the Mid-America Monarch Conservation Strategy adopted in June 2018 by the Midwest Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, the Western Monarch Butterfly Conservation Plan is designed to secure the future of the species range-wide. The Western Monarch Population Initiative Council will oversee implementation of the plan. The Council will include the directors, or their designee, of the seven states within the western portion of the monarch range, a member of the WAFWA Executive Committee, and up to seven ex-officio members representing key sectors and agency partners.
The monarch butterfly is an iconic species in North America and its annual migration cycle is one of the most remarkable natural phenomena in the world. However, over the past 20 years, the monarch butterfly population has declined by more than 80 percent throughout much of its range. Several other pollinators have experienced similarly dramatic declines in recent decades. Habitat loss for breeding and foraging is a primary threat to many of these species. Since January 2018, WAFWA member states have been leading an effort to develop a strategy to enhance and conserve monarch populations west of the Rockies. University and non-governmental partners interested in monarch and pollinator conservation are also involved in the effort.
“This conservation plan is a great opportunity for WAFWA and the member states within the range of the western population of monarchs to work collaboratively with our conservation partners,” said Bill Van Pelt, WAFWA Grassland Coordinator. “Developing a regional conservation plan will not only benefit monarchs and other pollinators, but all wildlife species that depend on healthy, diverse grassland habitats. Over the years, we have learned by working with industry and landowners we can identify solutions to keep working lands in production while conserving wildlife at the same time.”
The Western Monarch Butterfly Conservation Plan sets both population and habitat objectives. The population objective is to achieve a 5-year running average by 2029 of 500,000 monarch butterflies counted at 75 sites with the highest counts during the Western Monarch Thanksgiving Count. That would represent a near doubling of the 2017 population estimate. Habitat-related goals include creating an additional 50,000 acres of monarch-friendly habitat in California’s Central Valley and adjacent foothills, and by 2029 establishing protection and management for 50% of all currently known and active monarch overwintering sites, including 90% of the most important overwintering sites. It is envisioned that the plan will be updated every five years with additional goals based on progress and information available at the time.
Achieving these goals may be more attainable in the Western population range than the Mid-American population range because a large portion of habitat in the Western range is public land. Conservation elements include a system to track implementation efforts identified in the Western Monarch Butterfly Conservation Plan and transition milkweed data into WAFWA’s Crucial Habitat Assessment Tool. With this information accessible on-line, land managers will be able to identify and prioritize areas for monarch and other pollinator conservation efforts.
Link to: Western Monarch Butterfly Conservation Plan
Media contact: Bill Van Pelt
WAFWA news releases available at www.wafwa.org/news/
Photo Credit - Oklahoma, Jena Donnell
WAFWA Seeks Public Comment on Draft Monarch Butterfly Conservation Management Plan
The Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies (WAFWA) is seeking public comment on a draft regional plan to enhance and target monarch butterfly conservation west of the Rocky Mountains. In September 2018, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation awarded a grant to WAFWA to develop a regional strategy to improve coordination and conservation among monarch butterfly and other pollinator partners.
The monarch butterfly is an iconic species in North America and its annual migration cycle is one of the most remarkable natural phenomena in the world. However, over the past 20 years, the monarch butterfly population has declined by more than 80 percent throughout much of its range. Several other pollinators have experienced similarly dramatic declines in recent decades. Habitat loss is a primary threat to many of these species.
Since January 2018, WAFWA members states of Washington, Oregon, California, Idaho, Utah, Arizona, and Nevada have been leading an effort to develop a conservation strategy to conserve and enhance monarch populations west of the Rockies. University and non-governmental partners interested in monarch and pollinator conservation are also involved in the effort.
“This draft conservation plan is a great opportunity for WAFWA and the member states within the range of the western population of monarchs to work collaboratively,” said Bill Van Pelt, WAFWA Grassland Coordinator. “Developing a regional conservation plan will not only benefit monarchs and other pollinators, but all wildlife species that depend on healthy diverse grassland habitats. Over the years we have learned by working with industry and landowners we can identify solutions to keep working lands in production while conserving wildlife at the same time.”
Conservation elements include a system to track implementation efforts identified in the Western Monarch Butterfly Conservation Plan and transition milkweed data into WAFWA’s Crucial Habitat Assessment Tool. With this information accessible on-line, land managers will be able to identify and prioritize areas for monarch and other pollinator conservation efforts.
Currently, WAFWA and their partners are inviting the public to participate in the development of the Western Monarch Butterfly Conservation Plan. The public is encouraged to provide input by sending comments to MonarchComments@wildlife.ca.gov by December 6, 2018.
Photo Credit - NEBRASKAland Magazine-Nebraska Game and Parks Commission
WAFWA news releases available at www.wafwa.org/news/
The Western Native Trout Initiative (WNTI) has awarded $23,205 out of its small grant program for nine projects, which will be matched by $514,364 in other public and private funding. More than $537,569 in conservation efforts benefitting western native trout will occur as a result.
“We’re very grateful to our partners at Rocky Mountain Flyathlon, RepYourWater, Basin+Bend, and all our individual donors for supporting our 2018 Small Grants Program,” said Therese Thompson, WNTI Project Coordinator. “The community-based projects were selected because of their emphasis on collaborative action and outreach to help address challenges facing the restoration and recovery of western native trout.”
The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) has awarded a grant to the Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies (WAFWA) to develop a regional strategy and supporting plans to improve coordination among monarch butterfly conservation partners west of the Rocky Mountains.
The $120,000 grant was matched by $120,000 from WAFWA members states of Washington, Oregon, California, Idaho, Utah, Arizona, and Nevada. The grant will provide for increased organizational capacity and coordination among organizations, states and regions engaged in pollinator conservation. State and federal agencies and other conservation partners will be invited to participate in the development of a Western Monarch Butterfly Conservation Plan.
The grant funding will support work to develop regional strategies and plans, build capacity and expertise, maximize information exchange and distribute information about on-the-ground conservation practices. The project will develop and track implementation efforts identified in the Western Monarch Butterfly Conservation Plan, and transition milkweed data into WAFWA’s Crucial Habitat Assessment Tool. Once milkweed data is imported into that tool, scientists will have the ability to identify and prioritize areas for monarch and other pollinator conservation efforts.
“This is a great opportunity for WAFWA and the member states within the range of the western population of monarchs to work collaboratively with all partners interested in monarch and pollinator conservation,” said Bill Van Pelt, WAFWA Grassland Coordinator. “Developing a regional conservation plan will not only benefit monarchs and other pollinators, but all wildlife species that depend on healthy diverse grassland habitats.”
The monarch butterfly is one of the most iconic species in North America and its annual migration cycle is one of the most remarkable natural phenomena in the world. However, over the past 20 years, the monarch butterfly population has declined by more than 80 percent throughout much of its range. Several other pollinators have experienced similarly dramatic declines in recent decades. Habitat loss is a primary threat to many of these species.
The grant awarded to WAFWA is one of seven grant awards totaling more than $920,000 to conserve monarch butterflies and other insect pollinators in 19 states across the country. The grants will generate more than $2 million in matching contributions for a total conservation impact of more than $2.9 million.
The 2018 grants were awarded through NFWF’s Monarch Butterfly and Pollinators Conservation Fund. This year’s funding partners include Shell Oil Company, the U.S. Forest Service, the U.S. Geological Survey, and the Bureau of Land Management.
“These grants will support collaborative efforts to conserve monarch butterflies and other at-risk pollinators,” said Jeff Trandahl, executive director and CEO of NFWF. “These projects will create habitat for the many pollinators that are vital not only to the health of our ecosystem but also the strength of our economy.”
Photo Credit: NEBRASKAland Magazine-Nebraska Game and Parks Commission
WAFWA news releases available at www.wafwa.org/news/
Ken Mayer has been involved in sagebrush conservation issues for 30 years and now serves as the Coordinator of the Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies (WAFWA) Fire and Invasive Initiative. He also serves as the Chairman of the WAFWA Fire and Invasive Working Group.
You might be the anomaly these past few summers and falls if you live in the western United States and can see a horizon clear of brown smudge from the smoke of the pervasive wildfires. The news is saturated with the reports of devastating blazes and taxed fire-fighting resources across the West. The immensity of these fire seasons is overwhelming. So many of us in the conservation community have heavy hearts when we think about environmental and human costs involved in these wildfires, especially the effect on the local communities and all our state, federal, industry, non-profit, and other partners that are directly and indirectly involved in fighting these fires and then dealing with the aftermath of the invasion on non-native invasive annual grasses.
We have slid into a self-fulfilling cycle in sagebrush country where large fires burn huge swaths of sagebrush (especially in the Great Basin), and invasives grasses then fill in that fire’s scar. The smallest spark can ignite those fine fuels, just as soon as they’ve dried out each summer. Sagebrush takes decades to grow back into their native locations after fire. Unfortunately, the speed at which invasive annual grasses take over doesn’t give the sagebrush a chance, and if the same area burns again soon after (which often happens), the sagebrush is virtually eliminated, resulting in the conversion to an invasive annual grass savanna.
If you went to the doctor and they said you have cancer, but it’s still early stage, what do you do? It’s all-hands-on-deck to try all the treatments to cure it before it progresses too far--right? You wouldn’t wait for the invention of a single cure-all pill to start fighting. Cheatgrass and other invasive annual grasses have to be treated the same way. We cannot wait until we have the perfect solution to start addressing this pending natural disaster. If we wait, it may be too late!
Though we all get excited about the next cheatgrass-killing bacteria or biocontrol, we have a number of tools in our toolbox right now to fight this invasive spread. One small tool came out this spring when the Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies released a report assessing the fire and invasive management options for sagebrush conservation. The “Wildfire and Invasive Plant Species in the Sagebrush Biome: Challenges that Hinder Current and Future Management and Protection – A Gap Report Update” builds on previously published work to summarize the policy, fiscal, and science challenges that land managers encounter in conserving sagebrush, especially regards to the invasive annual grass/fire cycle.
The goal of this Gap Analysis Report Update is to provide a roadmap, for the decision-makers responsible for managing the sagebrush sea, to the challenges and the tools available to address this crisis. This report points out what the problems are, what successes we are having, and the gaps we need to address, with suggestions on what needs to be done.. This report is being embraced throughout the conservation community, however we need to continue to elevate this to the decisions makers.
The top five gaps are organized in term of priority and severity. The first and most pressing gap can be summarized as the lack of capacity, common conservation priorities and consistent long-term dedicated (line-item) funding for invasive plant management programs. In other words, the cost of managing these infestations increases exponentially as invasives spread. The funding appropriated each year to government programs is often barely enough to cover base salaries.
Reading of the seemingly insurmountable challenges sagebrush country faces can be depressing, especially as we breathe this smoky August air. Yet, the development of this multiagency report has been one of the most productive collaborations I’ve been involved with in my career. We know the problems and we have tools to work on them. Invasives are going to win if we hesitate. We do not have time to wait. Now we just have to have the fortitude and shared vision to get it done.
By Ken Mayer
As part of the 2018 People of the Sage: Fire & Invasives series, this article is telling the stories of the people combating the twin threats of wildfire and invasive species by showcasing their work in sagebrush country using innovative, successful conservation practices that are both proactive and reactive. To see more posts from this series search for #SagebrushCountry and #fireANDinvasives on social media.
The Western Native Trout Initiative (WNTI) is awarding $232,640 in grant funding for eight projects that benefit native trout species across the western United States. The community-based projects are funded through the National Fish Habitat Action Plan and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The projects were selected because of their emphasis on collaborative action to address some of the biggest challenges facing the restoration and recovery of western native trout.
"Our main objectives are to leverage and support strategic, local efforts that stabilize, recover and improve populations of western native trout,” said WNTI Coordinator Therese Thompson. “In addition to the grant funding we’re providing through the National Fish Habitat Partnership, local partners have secured additional matching funds totaling $2.33 million dollars for these projects.”
The following native trout habitat projects have been approved for funding by WNTI for 2018:
COLORADO: Rock Creek Recovery Program Phases 3 and 4
This project will create a connected population of Greenback Cutthroat Trout across Rock Creek and its tributary Black Canyon, eliminate whirling disease from a portion of the drainage where it is established, and provide seven stream miles for native trout on a combination of private land and National Forest. The project includes an innovative approach to intermediate barriers, featuring two temporary barriers that can be removed and replaced as needed, along with one permanent barrier at the downstream end of the project reach. The lead partner is Colorado Trout Unlimited.
IDAHO: Kootenai River GMU Redband Assessment
This project seeks to improve the current level of knowledge regarding Interior Redband Trout distribution and abundance in the Kootenai River Basin and provide information critical for the protection and or restoration of Redband Trout populations and their habitat in the basin. The lead partner is Idaho Department of Fish and Game.
IDAHO: Tincup Creek Stream Restoration Project, Phase 2
This is the second phase of a project to improve riparian conditions and habitat for Yellowstone Cutthroat Trout, northern leatherside chub, boreal toad, western pearl shell mussels and bluehead suckers. The lead partner is Trout Unlimited.
NEW MEXICO: Leandro Creek Restoration Project
The project will isolate and extend 2.5 miles of current habitat for a core Rio Grande Cutthroat Trout population with an additional 5.25 miles of habitat on Leandro Creek through construction of a new barrier to replace an aging wooden barrier and control of non-native salmonids. The lead partner is Turner Enterprises, Inc.
OREGON: Deep Creek Town Diversion Fish Passage
Restoring fish passage for Warner Lakes Redband Trout and Warner Sucker is the focus of this project, which will complete a fish passage solution for a diversion dam that has been an upstream fish passage barrier for over 100 years. The lead partner is Lake County Umbrella Watershed Council.
OREGON: Wood River Ditch Fish Screen
This project will eliminate entrainment of native fishes while ensuring water delivery to private landowners and water users by installing a functioning fish screen and energy efficient irrigation pumps, representing an important step in protecting Redband Trout populations in the upper Klamath basin. The lead partner is Trout Unlimited.
WYOMING: Coal Creek Bank Stabilization and Sediment Reduction
This project benefits an important Bonneville Cutthroat Trout stream in western Wyoming by improving riparian and aquatic habitat condition and function, reducing sediment loading, enhancing stream habitat connectivity, and improving road function. The lead partner is Wyoming Game and Fish Department.
WYOMING: West Pass Creek Yellowstone Cutthroat Trout Restoration
This multi-phased project involves removing nonnative trout and establishing a temporary fish barrier to protect a pure population of Yellowstone Cutthroat Trout. Completion of subsequent phases will expand native Yellowstone Cutthroat Trout to a 6-mile stream network, and will boost recruitment and the resiliency of the species in the West Pass Creek drainage. The lead partner is Wyoming Game and Fish Department.
WNTI is an initiative of the Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies that seeks to cooperatively restore and recover 21 western native trout and char species across their historic range. Since its inception in 2006, WNTI has directed almost $5 million in federal fish habitat funds leveraged with an additional $19 million public and private matching dollars for 123 priority native trout conservation projects.
For more information about these projects, visit https://westernnativetrout.org/2018-funded-projects/
Therese Thompson (303) 236-4402
Photo Credit: Bureau of Land Management
Partnership will benefit trout in Utah, Idaho and Wyoming
Resources Legacy Fund is partnering with the Western Native Trout Initiative (WNTI) through the Open Rivers Fund to reconnect parts of the Upper Bear River in Utah, Idaho, and Wyoming. The partnership will benefit Bonneville cutthroat trout, recreational fishing, and ranchers who divert water for irrigation. The partnership will ultimately fund eight restoration projects that will remove five diversion dams, three additional barriers and restore stream and riparian habitat.
The projects funded through the Open Rivers Fund are expected to be completed by early next summer. The Open Rivers Fund is a 10-year, $50 million program of Resources Legacy Fund, supported by the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation. It supports local community efforts to remove obsolete dams, modernize infrastructure, and restore rivers across the West. Resources Legacy Fund works with donors to create significant outcomes for the environment and for people.
Resources Legacy Fund granted $278,000 this summer to WNTI to remove three agricultural diversion dams on the Upper Bear River in Wyoming, and replace them with fish passable structures that also maintain the ranchers’ points of diversion. Two more diversion dam removal and replacement projects in Idaho are in the planning stages. Three additional projects in Wyoming and Utah are contemplated next year following completion of the initial projects.
“Our partnership with Western Native Trout Initiative will demonstrate ways to both upgrade irrigation infrastructure and reconnect rivers for fish,” said Kathy Viatella, Program Officer for the Open Rivers Fund. “We hope these initial projects show ranchers across the West that there are ways to reduce irrigation diversion maintenance and costs while freeing native species to reclaim lost habitat.”
Multiple irrigation diversion structures and other barriers fragment the Upper Bear River drainage, which spans Northern Utah, Southeast Idaho, and Southwest Wyoming. WNTI is working with many partners to remove and replace aging infrastructure in order to protect Bonneville cutthroat trout strongholds, restore habitat connectivity, and open up access to high-quality upstream habitats and cold, clean water on both public and private lands.
“We are thrilled about this new collaboration between WNTI and Resources Legacy Fund that will benefit native fish, landowners, and recreationists in the Upper Bear River drainage,” said WNTI Coordinator Therese Thompson. “Successfully addressing native trout recovery is a landscape-scale problem that requires collaboration from all interested parties in both the public and private sectors.”
WNTI is a program of the Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies and a recognized National Fish Habitat Partnership that works to cooperatively restore and recover 21 western native trout and char species and sub-species across their historic range. The program funds efforts that raise awareness of the importance of native trout and focus limited financial and human resources toward the highest-impact, locally-led, on-the-ground projects. Since its inception in 2006, WNTI has directed over $5 million in federal fish habitat funds leveraged with an additional $23 million public and private matching dollars for 139 priority native trout conservation projects. With the collaboration and coordination of WNTI Partners, 87 barriers to fish passage have been removed, 1,130 miles of native trout habitat have been reconnected or improved, and 30 protective fish barriers to conserve important native trout conservation populations have been put in place.
Photo Credit: Jason Jaacks – Resources Legacy Fund
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